These days everyone owns a camera, whether it’s a simple point & shoot, one on your cell phone, or a higher end consumer digital SLR  – everyone is capable of taking a picture but should everyone call themselves a professional?

Lately the market has been saturated with people who are calling themselves “Professional Photographers”

With everyone owning a digital camera these days photography has really become the new “Tupperware” craze. It seems that many parents with a camera, who took a few nice photos of their children, have started a business. I think it’s great if you can take nice photos of your own children … but to charge as a professional and not pay taxes, not have insurance and not be registered as a business in your state is illegal!

I know many consumers shop based on price, which is why I’m sure many of these “parents with cameras” are initially an attractive option – because they do it for less money! We all know you get what you pay for, so don’t take the chance with a friend who just got a new camera to capture those first moments of your new baby or your family portraits.

If you’re getting married and have spent thousands on your dress, venue and flowers…why would wouldn’t you want capture the day with beautiful professional photography? Remember, you can’t go back and re-shoot that big day.

I’ve had to re-shoot baby portraits for a client who was heartbroken after the “photographer” she had hired didn’t know how to use the studio lights or the settings in the camera which lead to out of focus images. The photographer called it “soft focus”. Your child’s eyes should be in focus when they sitting there smiling. Another couple came to the studio and had me photograph portraits of them together after their friend never came through with their engagement portraits. He took their photos and they never saw them. Thankfully these were all cases where there was time to recreate special portraits for them.

It’s important when hiring a professional photographer to really look closely at their credentials and their background. You may want to check to see if they are a registered business.  As well carefully look at their portfolio to see if their photographs have professional qualities  If their pricing is really low, it’s probably because they are an amateur with little or no training and/or operating an illegal business.

The PPA – Professional Photographers of America has started a campaign called “See the Difference” to educate consumers on why it’s important to hire a Professional Photographer for your big day and those special portraits not just someone you found on the online with a nice website that costs less.

I am honored to have some of my portraits featured in the campaign video. CLICK HERE to SEE THE DIFFERENCE Video

The second image featured is one of my award-winning family images titled “Roots and Wings”

To bring this in perspective. I own lots of pots and pans, have a great range and two wall ovens but I am no way a chef and would never think of charging someone for me to cook for them. Just ask my family.

A few things to look for when you visit a website of a photographer – consistency of their work is key. Their images should all looked finished, are the skin tones overly yellow, orange or pink, are they out of focus images , are there blurry subjects who are standing still , eyes closed or squinting eyes because they were photographed in direct sun. The images should look like portraits not snapshots, they should look like portraits with great color, emotional content and eye catching backgrounds that compliment the portraits not take away.  The subjects should look comfortable in the images whether photographed posed or captured in a photojournalistic way. The lighting should be complimentary to the subject in the portraits, not too harsh or cause shadows where they shouldn’t be. No one should have dark circles under their eyes that give the appearance of raccoon eyes.  On the other hand the subjects face and clothing shouldn’t have overly bright areas. If so it will cause your eye to go toward that area instead of focusing on the whole content of an image.

A few questions you can ask a photographer when researching…

Do you have back-up equipment ?( not just one camera and a lens) I know I have had equipment fail on me and I have always have back-ups on hand. I also always shoot with 2 bodies and lenses with back-ups ready to go, so I don’t miss a moment.
Do you carry liability and business insurance? What happens if my child should fall and get hurt during the shoot ( worse case scenario) or if your studio lights burn a hole in my brand new carpet ( yes it has happened to an old colleague of mine)
What type of training do you have? ( I don’t feel everyone needs to go to college in this field but they should have some training at some point before they start a business and should continue their education in this rapidly changing industry)
Are you a registered business? ( either with their state or county – all states have different laws on this)

Thanks for reading and I hope you find this blog post informative when you look to hire your next Professional Photographer.

Paula Ferazzi Swift holds a Bachelors of Science in Communications Media – Photography and an Associates in Science in Visual Fine Arts – Photography. Paula worked as a staff photojournalist at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette 1995-2005. In 1999 Paula had three of her images as part as the staff’s Pulitzer Finalist entry in Feature Photography for their coverage of the Deadly Worcester Warehouse Fire in Worcester, MA. She is a member of Professional Photographers of America and Professional Photographers Association of Massachusetts. Paula Swift holds many awards under in her 16 years as a professional photographer, in photojournalism with the National Press Photographers Association, New England News Association,  and in portrait photography at the Professional Photographers of America’s International Print Competition, Professional Photographers Association of New England and Professional Photographers Association of Massachusetts. You can view her Portrait and Photojournalism work at Paula Swift Photography, Inc. Paula Swift Photography, Inc. is a registered corporation in the state of Massachusetts and an insured photography business in the state of Massachusetts and the United States of America. Paula Swift is the owner of Paula Swift Photography was established in 2004 and moved into a 1000 sq ft studio loft located in the historic Fountain Street Studios in 2006. The studio was recently expanded to add another 1000 sq ft in 2009. Paula Swift Photography photographs maternity, newborn, babies, children, families, high school seniors, couples and collegiate sports in the Boston area and through out New England.